The neighbor's cat has been hanging around a lot lately. Initially I let Mittens stay not because he's cute, but because he's a stone-cold killer.
I had mice in my garage. Traps worked OK, but there was always the possibility that I'd catch one of the grandkids. Couple of them are no smarter than I was at that age.
The solution to the problem was to leave the garage door open at night just enough to let Mittens squeeze inside. Almost immediately I started finding feet and tails instead of droppings.
It was a bargain with a murderer. I traded cat footprints on the windshield of my truck for a mouse-free garage. I had to pick up the occasional leftover, but it was worth it.
The mice are gone now but I still like Mittens to come around. But now it's for the entertainment. Watching him go insane is a lot of fun.
Mittens' emotional health took a turn for the worse when I started hanging bird feeders again. Herriman, which until recently only had four trees in the entire city, now has a lot. The ones in my backyard have grown tall enough to cat-proof the feeders.
I put out suet cages and seed feeders, making sure to hang them just out of jump range of cats.
Note: If you hang feeders for entertainment, you want the cats to come around. You just don't want them to catch much.
The birds showed up immediately. My backyard has become a flyway for juncos, sparrows, doves, grosbeaks, finches and wrens. It's like the airport only quieter and no strip searches.
Killer that he is, Mittens noticed the gathering of birds right away. He came slinking through the fence. The birds saw him and scattered.
It didn't take the birds long to figure out that Mittens posed no real danger to them on the feeders. He couldn't jump that high. So they eat and make fun of him.
Being a cat, Mittens takes all of this taunting personally. He can't come to terms with the fact that there are so many small, killable things so close and yet so far out of reach.
That didn't stop him from trying at first. I watched him make several runs at the feeder, leaping high but not even coming close.
The birds found this hilarious. On the last couple attempts, they didn't even bother to fly away. Mittens realized how embarrassing this was and he stopped doing it.
Instead, he tried climbing the tree. That didn't work either. It seems birds know how defenseless a cat is with its legs wrapped around the trunk of a tree. They ganged up on him until he fell off.
Finally, he camped out behind a flowerpot on my back porch, hoping something would come within range. As the birds zipped past, his ears would go up and down. His head actually seemed to get flatter. I guess he thought this made him invisible. It didn't.
Failure started to wear on him. He twitched a lot and began making a rattling noise in his throat. His winter coat lost its luster and the murderous gleam left his eye. I offered him a Valium but he refused.
Life seems to be all about coming to terms with the difference between what you want and what you can actually have. It's the only way to find peace.
Apparently even cats can figure that out. This morning in the garage there were footprints and blood on the hood of my truck.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.